The Baseball Canada Umpire Developer Award is a new award handed out annually to an individual who has demonstrated commitment and excellency in the delivery of umpire education as part of the National Umpires Certification Program.
The Covid-19 pandemic caused organizations to adapt, and do so in a hurry in terms of the way that they normally would conduct business. The umpiring community was no different and without a doubt Baseball Ontario succeeded due to the quick shift in offering Umpire and Coaching Certification in an online vs in-person format in 2020. This quick transition would not have been possible without the efforts of Ed Quinlan and Chris Wilhelm who dedicated countless hours to the program.
In a short 5-week period the entire approach to how clinics were offered was changed and this undertaking included determining and purchasing the technology platform to be used, converting all content to an online format, recruiting and training facilitators who conduct the sessions, and implementing a format for participants to register for online learning.
All of this work was completed starting March 18 and the Level 1 and Level 2 Umpire clinics were ready to go on April 29. This resulted in 88 Local Associations offering 185 “clinics” with approximately 4,000 participants. This meant a retention of over two-thirds of Baseball Ontario umpires from 2019 levels despite the looming uncertainties of if baseball would be played in 2020.
Both Ed and Chris continued on after the initial preparation work to be key facilitators in many of the clinics offered. “Leave Behind” kits for the local Umpire-In-Chief’s were also provided which outlined tips and drills that they could implement with their umpires if on-field activities resumed. Further, Ontario was set to offer its first Accelerated Umpire Program where those with a background in officiating or baseball but not currently certified could achieve their full Level 1 and Level 2 certification in one intensive weekend. Due to COVID-19 this was not possible. Ed and Chris transformed this program in an impressive and innovative fashion to a series of webinars. As a result 20 participants completed the program over a 4 week period and will complete the on-field portion of program once baseball activities resume.
Ed and Chris’ great efforts were not only felt in Ontario as the Level 1 and Level 2 clinics were offered to other Provinces for their use resulting in 280 umpires in Manitoba and 78 umpires in Newfoundland & Labrador participating in the program.